Just Keep Shooting - Auburn rallies to stun LSU in OT
It was a heavyweight matchup in Auburn Arena. Two Tigers doing fierce battle in The Jungle. The atmosphere was electric. The effort and action from both teams was superb. In the end, it was the orange-and-blue striped Tigers who got in the last blow. Auburn trailed by 15 in the first half, 12 at halftime, by 14 in the second half, by 8 with 1:26 to play in regulation, and by 1 with 9 seconds in overtime. But LSU's lead vanished for good when J'Von McCormick's teardrop floater dropped with 0.1 seconds left. After LSU's last ditch effort fell wide, The Jungle roared and Auburn Arena shook. The result thrust Auburn into first place in the SEC standings, with an identical record to LSU but now holding the tiebreaker. These never-quit Tigers chalked up yet another comeback win. This team never seems to panic and always finds a way to win. While it might be hard on their fans' nerves, Auburn keeps finding ways to pull out games which seemed bleak. Just in case you lost track, that is now three of the past four games in which Auburn has trailed by double-digits in the second half and has still come back to win. And all three times it has taken overtime to decide the final outcome.
Auburn was led by the senior backcourt duo of J'Von McCormick and Samir Doughty. Doughty dropped in 26 points. Meanwhile, McCormick neared a triple-double with 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists, as well as making the aforementioned winner. McCormick was especially key in rallying Auburn from an 8 point deficit in the final 1:26 of the game. He made 3 straight three-pointers to get Auburn within two at 74-72. After he missed a potential go ahead three with 26 seconds in regulation, McCormick promptly stole the ball back from Skylar Mays and assisted Samir Doughty on the tying layup. Following Doughty's game-tying layup, Mays missed a long contested three just before the buzzer sounded sending the game to overtime. Auburn's hot shooting from the end of the second half carried over into overtime, as the Tigers raced out to a 86-79 lead with 1:51 left in the extra period. However, Skylar Mays, who finished with a game-high 30 points, willed his team back into it with 6 points in the final minute of overtime. Helped by Auburn missing three of four free throws in the final 37 seconds, along with a costly Doughty turnover, LSU took the lead back, 90-89, on a Emmitt Williams dunk. That set up the final sequence in which J'Von McCormick brought the ball up the floor, hesitated high on the left side, and then weaved into the lane before watching his floater bounce off the rim and glass before dropping through the net.
Auburn seemed to have the right gameplan early in the first half against the Bayou Bengals. Auburn led 12-8 about seven minutes into the game before LSU started lighting up the scoreboard. A second chance three by Mays got LSU rolling. They repeatedly found the soft spots in Auburn's defense, while building a 32-17 lead at the 5:42 mark of the first half. Auburn would go on their own 11-0 run to close within 4 at 32-28. Devan Cambridge and Doughty scored all 11 of those points, including two treys by Cambridge. Cambridge, a true freshman, finished the game with 21 points on 7-10 three-point shooting. LSU responded right back with their own 10-0 run to push the lead back to 14. Allen Flanigan cut the lead to 12 just before the halftime buzzer on a contested layup. Flanigan had a chance to cut the lead to 11, but missed the free throw. LSU's first half offensive barrage was led by Darius Days and Skylar Mays, who scored 15 and 10 points respectively in the first half. They also combined to make 5 of LSU's 7 first half threes. At the intermission, LSU was shooting 50% from the field, while Auburn was only shooting 30.3% from the field. The 42 points was the most Auburn had allowed in a first half all year.
Two trends which really swung to Auburn's favor following halftime were rebounding and three-point shooting. At the half, Auburn was 5-18 (27.8%) from distance. In the second half and overtime, Auburn made 13 of 25 treys. The 18 three-pointers made tied the mark for the second most in a game since Bruce Pearl became head coach. McCormick (5), Doughty (5), and Cambridge (7) combined to make 17 of the 18 Auburn threes. That trio finished the game 17-31 from deep, while their teammates finished 1-13 from behind the arc. At the half, Auburn had been outrebounded by LSU 23-15. Danjel Purifoy missed the game with the flu, so Auburn only had two true frontcourt players record minutes, Austin Wiley and Anfernee McLemore. Both of Auburn's bigmen were in foul trouble the whole first half picking up two fouls apiece. This forced Auburn to go with a four guard look for most of the first half. Despite still playing with a four guard lineup in the second half, Auburn flipped the rebounding script. Auburn had a 31-13 edge on the boards in the second half, including a 12-3 edge on the offensive glass. Wiley was at the center of this rebounding effort. The senior recorded his ninth double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Of his 13 boards, 7 were on the offensive glass. At the end of the game, Auburn finished with a 46-36 rebounding edge against the SEC's best team in terms of rebounding margin. Cambridge picked up a lot of Purifoy's minutes, finishing with 29 minutes for the game. Cambridge's play off the bench allowed Auburn to outscore LSU 23-6 in bench points.
The Tigers are now 21-2 on the year, including an 8-2 mark in SEC play. Auburn will put their six game winning streak on the line when rival Alabama invades The Jungle next Wednesday night at 6 p.m.